Alexa…

Over the past several years we have been moving into a “smart home” situation at our house. I began putting in smart speakers which then asked for smart outlets, smart lights, and the like. Walking around our house typically involves someone say “Alexa, turn on…” or “Echo turn off…”. I’m sure I’m not the only one doing this nowadays. For the most part it works well and is kind of fun. We even have scheduled events like turning on nightlights at sunset then dimming them at midnight then turning them off at sunrise. I don’t even think about lights at night any longer, I just presume that it will happen.

The idea of the smart home is that it makes life a bit easier. In many ways it does. But it also creates a bit of laziness as well. I know that the light in the living room will turn off at half past midnight even if I forget to turn it off. The comfort and ease is mostly good, but the lazy can be problematic.

Last night I went through my bed time routines and machinations. I brushed my teeth and put my clothes in the hamper (yes, I did Bev!). I asked me trusty nightstand device to play coqui frogs for me through the night, then as I began to approach prayer I started to utter the familiar “Echo…” command. I was on autopilot and started to pass my prayer duties on to my digital assistant. Yikes!

Having things be easier is nice, it really is. Yet sometimes that easy breeds complacency. I need to keep myself focused on what is important and continue to do the right things. I just might need to turn off the Alexa in order to…

—Rise Up!!

Looking for the Good Stuff

I spent a day with my mother yesterday. We had tickets to see a play (a “modern” revival of Oklahoma!, but that’s a whole different story…) in LA. Since my wife is still visiting her family in Tennessee I took my mother, figuring she’d enjoy an old class Rogers & Hammerstein show. The prospect of sitting through a sappy old musical was one thing, but spending a whole day with my mom, trapped in a car for 6 hours is not something that I relish. She is, perhaps, the most negative person I know. She and I are extreme opposites in the way we view the world. One of her superpowers is the ability to get me to get so frustrated that I want to jump from a moving vehicle just to escape her own special brain of insanity!

For the most part, the day went surprisingly well. She was tired on the way down and sat mostly quietly and listened to the radio with me. The play itself, while extremely bizarre, went without incident. By the final half hour of the trip the “real her” caught up with us. We were driving and she noticed a formation of clouds and commented that it looked like two eyes looking down from on high at us. I could see that and said “Yes, it sort of does.” Her next comment was where the crazy hopped in the car.

“Maybe it’s the Devil.”

Wait, what?!? The Devil? I Said that I found that to me a strangely negative outlook on eyes in the sky. I explained that typically people think of God residing in the sky and the Devil being in Hell, you know, underneath us. This was met with incredulity. She did her usual “gotcha” type question and asked “So are you saying that the Devil is bad like, what, 99% of the time?”. I countered that the devil is bad all of the time. 100%. For the next 5 minutes she doubled down on her position that it was unreasonable to expect people to know that the devil has a bad connotation. Rather than argue with her crazy, I decided to just marvel at it.

It occurred to me that no matter how much we seek out the good, the bad might eventually find us. I try to be a person who thinks about things in a positive light. I try to look for the ray of hope rather than the shadow of doom. Hopefully after reading this blog for the past handful of years, that shines through in what I write. So there I was trying to be positive all day long and negative hopped into the car and hollered “Shotgun!”

With our limited time on earth I think it is important to spend as much of it as we can looking for and handing out positive things. In every situation we can try to see the good in it. When my car breaks down and I have to pay a mechanic to fix it I can get mad, or I can be thankful that I have a car to break down and that I get to bless the mechanic’s life with some money. It doesn’t always work like that, but I think you can see the idea here. Even when we are doing our best to stay positive, negative will come knocking. We can’t always avoid it. But to spend time looking for the negative instead of the positive just seems silly to me.

There will be plenty more opportunities for me to experience strange people. There will be plenty of opportunities to see bad revivals of plays. There will be plenty of opportunities for to have to dig through a lot of nonsense to find the gem hiding there. And that means there will be plenty of opportunities for me to…

–Rise Up!!

WiFi!

It’s 2022. It’s Starbucks. We have WiFi. This should not be “blog worthy”, but sadly, for me it is. I know, First World Problems, right?!?

The thing is, I’ve gotten trained to expect things like free WiFi at public places, so when it’s not there, I get all twisted! My “office” is at our newest Starbucks and since it has opened the internet service has been spotty at best. For the last two or three months I have just used my phone as a hot spot. Then today I came in and began top get all set up. I plugged my laptop in to the electric outlet. I took my iPad and ear buds out of my backpack. I ordered my morning cuppa. Monday morning was becoming a fully operational battle station.

[Cue the email noise]

That was weird. I haven’t connected to the hot spot yet, why am I getting email? Sure enough, the store has resolved the WiFi issues. Oh Happy Day (you’re welcome Faith P!).

Celebrating little things is how we do the monotony of day to day recovery. Every moment isn’t the best nor is it the worst. There can only be one of each of those. The rest is the cream filling in the Oreo. They’re the peanut butter and jelly between the bread. The rest make up the vast majority of each day. But without the rest it’s just two chocolate cookies that a lot of people just throw away. Without the rest you have bread, but no sandwich. The joy lives in the rest. So today I will enjoy the WiFi. I’ll find my little office in the corner at Starbucks where I get to sit down to…

–Rise Up!!

Starbucks giving me the Good Stuff!

Keep Going

This weekend I did something I had done 12 times before: I went to see Sammy Hagar in concert. He was my first big arena concert back in the 80’s and has been my favorite singer for decades. “Wait a minute”, you may be thinking. I know, this is still a recovery blog. Indulge me for a bit and you’ll see where I’m headed…

I went to the show with my childhood friend Donny. He too has been a big Red Rocker fan. It was our 6th show together. As we headed from our hotel (Donny is too old for the Rock and Roll lifestyle and driving home in the wee hours of the morning!) to the concert venue we planned ahead to allow time to travel. After plugging in the address we just followed the voice in the computer to the parking area. It was perfect, until it wasn’t.

As we got closer I began to worry that there was no traffic. It turns out that the access road that the GPS found was closed for construction. We were right next to the property, but we had to drive around to get to the other side where the entrance was. It wasn’t a huge place, but the roads leading to where we wanted took us on the scenic route. We were only off by about a quarter of a mile, but we had to drive almost 6 miles to get to the gate!

Even though we did everything we were told to do by a very trusted source, we still ran into problems. However, we didn’t let the trouble stop our progress. We found our way to the right place and then discovered that parking was FREE. I mean, come on, that’s like only one of my favorite prices ever!!!

By the time Sammy hit the stage we were settled in our seats. It was a gorgeous summer evening in So Cal. We had a great time. Recover often doesn’t go as planned. Sometimes even our good plans go awry. All we had to do was re-calibrate in order to…

–Rise Up!!

Sammy Hagar – The Red Rocker

Lost Keys

I woke up on this Labor Day morning and wen about the process of getting ready. For me, “getting ready” means taking a shower, brushing my hair, and getting dressed. My plan for the day was to head down to Starbucks and have coffee while getting some writing done. I have coffee at home and I could write there as well, but there’s something therapeutic about Starbucks for me. I have better focus with just a bit of hubbub.

Everything was going well with my plan until it didn’t! I wasn’t able to find my keys. My guess was that they were right where I left them. Since my car was home, I knew they were not that far away. I wasn’t too bothered by them being lost, however, I wasn’t going to be able to leave until I found them. I did a bit of a 10th Step to find them, “We continue to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.” What that means is that I took a look back at my recent past to see where they might be. For me, the usual location for my keys is a hook under the kitchen cabinet. If they aren’t there, I often leave them in the ignition. I headed out to Location #2 and found them. No, they weren’t in the ignition, but still, I found them. The picture below will reveal my newest “hiding spot” for keys!

My point is that the steps come into my life all the time. It’s easier to live a straight and narrow life when I keep focused on the right things. Just slow down and…

–Rise Up!!

Keys
Here’s a great place for your keys…

You Never Know

When I go to the prison it is just a little over an hour drive each way. I got up on Saturday and got myself ready. I had some coffee and watched a little bit of Premier League from England to get my day started. It was lovely. I noticed that it was almost time to leave so I turned of the match I was watching and gathered up my things for the day. On Saturday I need to bring a couple of different boxes and a bag of supplies so my hands are pretty full.

When I got out to the prison I realized that I had everything I needed…except for my wallet and ID. Even though they knew who I was, they just wouldn’t let me in without the ID. It was a long way to drive for nothing.

I went back the next day and made sure that I had everything, especially that ID! I was able to go in and get to my class without issue. I saw one of my Saturday students and he let me know that classes were cancelled because of a violent incident. Sometimes what seems like a mistake turns out to be a divine appointment. Looks like driving around for a couple hours might be a good way to…

–Rise Up!!

Waiting

I had an appointment this morning about an hour and a half from home. I got up early and moved through my morning in order to be on time. Now I’m sitting in the parking lot and realize that I did bad math. I added an extra hour to my travel time.

Planning is important they say if you fail to plan you plan to fail. I’ve always thought that 15 minutes early is on time. So is it such a bad thing? I do have to sit in a prison parking lot for a while, which isn’t the most awesome thing. Yet when I look at the people who come here, most don’t get to go home in another hour or so. The right perspective helps me to…—

Rise Up!!

I Would Walk 500 Miles🎶

You may remember that ear worm of a song from the Proclaimers from the late ‘80’s. If you look at it on a map the 500 miles then the 500 more could actually put them in Iceland, depending on which direction they set out. That’s a lot of walking on water!

Being back in the prisons this month we have been keeping a digital diary of our mileage. I used to just write it in a book so I didn’t get a good idea of how much driving we did for our ministries. With this new spreadsheet I get a running total of miles. In August alone it’s been over 1200 miles. Granted, we are driving, so it’s not quite as impressive as the Proclaimers, but still, with the price of gas, it’s note worthy.

The point is that we get to share the Word with people all over the place and it is a joy. By the end of September we should be running 5 different Celebrate Recovery meetings each week. Sure, it’s exhausting, but sometimes you might need to sit down in order to…

—Rise Up!!

Proclaimers 500 miles map

Perspective

I was sitting at my local Starbucks. Nothing out of the normal there, right? Something was rotten in the state of Denmark though. The Wi-Fi wasn’t working properly. The front door wouldn’t stay closed so the air conditioning forced it slightly ajar when, in turn, kept the very noisy fly fan on. To top it off, my pour over coffee hadn’t been made properly so it was too strong. Boy oh boy, I was having issues at Starbucks!

Then I went into the prison that evening. I saw men sitting in the exact same clothes. I saw worn out cups to hold their drinks. I saw men who would not have the option to be bothered by no Wi-Fi, bad coffee, and a noisy fan. In fact, every single one of those men would have traded me places, problems, and situations straight up, no questions asked.

Everything is a matter of perspective. I need to remember to ask, “How could this be worse?” instead of “Why is this so bad?”. My recovery depends on my attitude. My attitude depends on perspective. Things might not be great, but in every situation I’ve either been in worse or know someone who is currently in a worse place. When frustration comes my way, I need think positive and…

—Rise Up!!

They’re heeeeeerrrrrre….

If you are a child of the 70’s and 80’s you probably remember that spooky line from the little girl in Poltergeist. She was announcing the arrival of the ghosts that were about to change the lives of the main characters.

I here that as I prepaid to go back inside the prison this evening. It will be our first time back in service since the world ground to a halt in March of 2020.

Hopefully we are able to have a major impact as we go back inside. Giving back is a huge part of our 12th Step and the perfect way to…

—Rise Up!!